Non- Revenue and Space Available

One of the funny things that they say about flight attendants is ” Marry me, fly for free.” Now that was not the carrot that drew me to my lovely wife Janet, but it sure was a great perk while it lasted. 31c039e513832a80dde8f645936e7d8e
I can remember the first flight by myself as a “non-rev” passenger. In those days we had to wear a coat and a tie and Janet told me not to ask for any food unless they had enough to serve. Living in guilt ridden hell like I did, I didn’t move for the 5 hour flight to L.A. I politely refused any service and sat in the seat quietly and read my book for the entire flight. When I got to LAX, I ran to the men’s room and breathed a huge sigh of relief. When relating the story to Janet, she said the flight attendants probably thought I was some kind of weirdo. I got better at flying “non-rev” after that.
I saw a lot of places in those days and the ski areas were the number one target. Who can pass up a free flight to ski out west or in New England? chair 23
I got pretty good at judging what flights were full and where to go. I also got quite adept at changing my clothes on I-70 East in Colorado on the way to DIA. Many times I was stripping down from ski clothes to a rumpled mess of a sportcoat, tie and pants while on the move eastward. As I ran into the airport many times barely making the flights, I prayed that the doors would close and I would not get bumped. I didn’t realize that I still had the zinc oxide on my lips and the suntan lotion slathered all over my face. The baseball hat covered up the greasy helmet hair and all was good headed home. Although my seat mates probably did not appreciate the sweat and the stench for the 4 hour flight. 03jack395.2

Jan and I had a lot of nice weekends together to the west coast when she worked a San Francisco flight or a San Diego flight. We would head out on a Friday night, get to the hotel and go out on the town. The next day we would get up early and sight see and hit every tour and restaurant we could during the day. We would have lunch at George’s on the Cove in La Jolla and see the Jags and the players in their Gucci shoes. I would ask Jan if she had a nice time? She would say “yes” and then I told it was time to get back on the bus with the bag ladies to San Diego. Reality struck hard. Then the plan was to take a quick nap because she would work the “red-eye” and we would be back in the burg early on Sunday morning. Those were whirlwind weekends.

When we would head to the beach, Jan became a weather channel junkie. If there was even a sniff of a tropical disturbance off the west coast of Africa, we were out of there. She always told the horror stories of getting bumped during hurricane season and often our trips were cut short because of a pending hurricane that was still thousands of miles out in the ocean. photo

One time coming back from Jackson Hole for a ski trip, we were stuck in Chicago. We waited two days and there were no “space available” seats. No chance whatsoever with all the cancellations and we rented the last vehicle available at O’Hare and drove through the blizzard back to Pittsburgh. We had my cousin Michael in tow with his buddy and were packed like sardines as we braved the harrowing roads headed east.

Oftentimes, I would be in the airport and would run into a flight attendant friend of Janet’s, who would laugh and say to me, ” are you flying again and your wife is working?” I sheepishly said yes but somebody had to do it! No wonder my neighbors called me the married bachelor.

Janet eventually retired from the airlines when we had our son Jack and we moved to the frequent flyer points from Southwest for a ticket. The good thing about those is that you actually have a seat and are not subject to the potential of getting bumped off the plane in some location that was a connection. We continued to travel together but in a more relaxed mode and my individual, last minute trips eventually came to an end. However, being the flexible curmudgeon that I am, frequent flyers and work trips became a new target for associated fun. But the adventures of the “non-rev” flights will always be in my memory because of the unknowns of weather, full flights, and last minute runs to the gate because I had to get that last ski run at a major resort. Traveling space available with ski bags and bike boxes was a challenge, but it was always worth it when you reached the final destination. photo

Flights today are packed and when Jan speaks to her flight attendant friends that are still working, they say flying “non-rev” is difficult because of the full flights. So, we laugh and say, we got it while the getting was good. Lots of fun times and lots of memories thanks to my wife’s hard work with USAIR. Thanks for reading and don’t bring that zeppelin bag for the overhead. Check it. My wife’s buddies will appreciate your courtesy.

Watching and Learning

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In the ski industry, our region is known as the “Banana Belt”. Any winter weather expectations are tempered below the New England, New York State line and those of us who long for winter weather experiences so that we can enjoy our winter sports here in Pennsylvania, have it tough sometimes. The only salve for these wounds of expectation is the hope that the weather will turn locally,focusing on our planned ski trips up north and out west, and………watching ski racing on television. I have always been a fan of ski racing because coming from an instructor background, racing shows the ultimate technique required to make a ski turn efficiently. I make an effort to watch NBC Sports, NBC Sports Network, Universal Sports and use the DVR function to watch turns in slow motion to see if there is anything I can glean from watching the world’s best racers.

I made efforts in past years to watch ski racing up close and personal, climbing up the sides of courses to see exactly how world class racers maneuver their way through combinations in slalom, as well as see their lines in GS and the Downhill. I remember watching Perrine Pelen race slalom at Waterville Valley back in 1982. Perrine was an Olympic silver and bronze medalist in slalom, and giant slalom, and won a gold in slalom at the World Championships. I looked at that combination where I was standing and imagined myself going through that particular section of the course.. When Perrine came rocketing through, it was almost too fast to see exactly what she was doing. Any expectation that I had was completely blown away by her world class technique and speed. It was hard to relate. I needed that slow motion function.

French skier Perrine Pelen smiles as she shows her two Olympic medals, 18 February 1984 in Sarajevo, at the Winter Olympic Games. Pelen won the silver medal in the slalom, 17 February, and the bronze medal in the giant slalom, 13 February.   AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

French skier Perrine Pelen smiles as she shows her two Olympic medals, 18 February 1984 in Sarajevo, at the Winter Olympic Games. Pelen won the silver medal in the slalom, 17 February, and the bronze medal in the giant slalom, 13 February. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

I had a great opportunity to meet our US Ski Team member Cindy Nelson at that race with my buddy Billy Boucherimg_1221 and we had a nice discussion with her on the finer points of racing and what her experiences were at the World Cup level. A number of years ago, I had the great experience of being with a group of instructors at an event called “Ski Happyning” in Austria and witnessed the Super Bowl of ski races- the Hahnenkamm. The speed and the treachery of that course was impressive and I learned quickly the value of sharpened edges when I skied the Streif the next day. img_1223

Fast forward, I saw our current slalom star, Mikaela Shiffrin, race in the U.S. Nationals at Squaw Valley two years ago and have watched her career with interest. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RyIpHiHBVA&list=PLiDVMRUU2yRQzbDx3HfH1eHpF86W2tmOG&sns=em

Last weekend, I watched her impressive win in slalom at Killington on NBC. It was the first time in 25 years that the World Cup was on the East Coast and the crowds were huge.It was not only interesting watching her win in front of thousands of fans, but more importantly in front of her 95 year old grandmother who had never seen her race live. 28pennington1-master768 Mikaela is not only extremely confident, but her turns are executed flawlessly. Her timing is perfect as she pressures the skis through a turn and quickly sets up for the next turn high above the next gate. She is never late and as it stands now, she is in a league of her own beating the other ladies by seconds which is light years in ski racing. Her balance is unmatched as she stands perfectly on the skis all the way through the turn. It is really fun to watch.

All in all, you can learn a lot from watching any sport executed by the world’s best. Golfers are always watching the swings of the Tour players and trying to emulate what they do correctly. It is the same with skiing. We watch and learn from skiers like Shiffrin, and see what they do especially when you can see it in slow motion. So, as I wait for the snow and placate myself with muddy mountain bike rides at night or on above frigid weekend days, I hope for the best. The equipment is sitting there waiting, the trips are planned, all we need are the HKD guns to start blasting locally and with a little luck from mother nature, maybe just maybe, we can apply what we learn from watching before Christmas. Think snow, even if you don’t ski or like winter…..it is beautiful to see. A landscape that is blanketed in snow is a visual wonder. Thanks for reading.

Photo of Perrine Pelen – Getty Images
Photo of Mikaela Shiffrin and family- Erich Schlegel- USA Today Sports, via Reuters.
Video – US Ski Team videos.

The Ambulance

Posting a little early this week to usher in the Holidays. I wanted to tell you about another automobile and the passengers who made it special. 73-buick-estate-wagon-dv_09_gc_01

My mother was a fabulous cook. She loved to entertain. She got off to a rough start with my paternal grandfather John H McCloskey Sr. when he and my grandmother came early to dinner one day.It was in the first year of my mom and dad’s marriage. Flustered, my mom hurried as best as she could and after the grace, when my grandfather dug in, he remarked,” Carol, I have seen chickens hit on the road that were done better than this.” My mom was devastated but redeemed herself over the years with her entertaining and cooking for my demanding relatives. Enter the “ambulance.”

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My mom had a habit of inviting all of the in-laws and the out-laws to our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. When they became too old to drive themselves, I became the chauffeur with my sister in tow and we went and picked them all up in the Buick station wagon. Now my relatives were not shy about taking a “nip” or two before dinner and at their advancing age, sometimes it hit the fan. My mothers maiden aunts, Mamie and Lee Reynolds would chug the cocktails and begin the long, slow slide under the table to be set upright, back in their chairs by yours truly. They had a habit of looking for their eyeglasses during this pre-catatonic state which were neatly perched on the top of their heads. My paternal grandfather had a habit of talking in a loud voice which he thought was whispering. ” How is your drink mother?”, he said to my grandmother. When she said it was ok, he remarked, ” Kind of watered down if you ask me.” He liked a strong belt and I became an expert at plowing them with high test Manhattans. img_1205

The dinners over the years were fabulous and the rides home were stuff of legend. Molly and I would pour Mamie and Lee onto the couch back on Rankin Avenue and begin the extra routing to the North Side and Bellevue with whomever was a passenger at the time. My dad’s aunt Ann would insult her sister in law ( my paternal grandmother), and the donneybrook became vocal in the ambulance.

Soon the time came when the ambulance became the delivery vehicle because the old folks were too feeble to come out to the house any more. Molly and I would have a station wagon full of turkey dinners complete with all the trimmings and deliver them all day to the relatives, stopping briefly to converse with them and make them the obligatory Manahattans in their homes. My mother cooked for days in order to provide multiple dinners for Thanksgiving because she didn’t want anyone to be alone especially the in-laws, and the out-laws.

As I think back about my elderly relatives, I have many smiles because they truly were characters. When you age, your world tends to shrink and survival mode kicks in. It was amusing to see the view of the world from their perspective which was all about them. I was truly blessed to have the experience of driving them,being with them, and enjoying the spectacle that was the Holidays. I loved being with the old folks and was particularly close to my maternal grandmother and grandfather, Mary and John Reynolds. img_1206

The “ambulance” finally gave up the ghost one year and the deliveries dwindled as the old folks passed on to their eternal rewards. But, when I think of those days of huge meals at Pineview Driveimg_1199 and the subsequent deliveries of copious amounts of food in the old station wagon, I smile and want the tradition to continue. My wife Janet loves to cook and we are having some elderly friends of my mother in law’s over for dinner this Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to it because it reminds me of traditions that must continue in this country. Take care of the relatives, help to feed those who are not as fortunate by way of a donation, or volunteering. And pass on the importance of family to the younger generation who look to us for example. Enjoy the Holidays and thanks for reading.

Unbridled Enthusiasm

Well, I just completed another lap around the sun this week and I am here to tell you that at 62 years old, I have as much enthusiasm for the upcoming winter season as I did when I was a kid. img_1188

When I was a young guy, I couldn’t wait for that first snowflake to fall. I read everything I could read on skiing and impatiently waited for that phone to ring where Bob Rose would tell me to get ready for the weekend ahead. ohara-20130104-00081

As life moves on, people get busy and sometimes the passions of their youth wane with responsibilities, families, work and other life challenges. But in my mind, if you have a passion like I have for winter and the ski season, it is cherished and has been something that has lasted for 55 years of my life. My wife Janet thinks I am a little off the wall when I get all of my equipment out and make sure that the new boots fit the bindings properly, the DIN settings are correct and the skis are all freshly tuned and waxed for the upcoming season. I get the strange looks from the new neighbors when I am out in the yard with shorts and ski boots. img_1132

I now have skis for every possible condition and whether I am skiing locally, out west, or in New England, my quiver is full and I am locked and loaded for fun. img_1129

People ask me all the time how I can get so excited to ski at our local area and I tell them that I have been doing it for 55 years and although I have skied in 108 different areas in my life, I still have that fondness for the Laurel Highlands here in Western Pa. The other thing I tell people is that if you can get your legs locally, you can enjoy your trips all the more. Get up early, ski until noon, and you can get more runs in than most people do all day. Then when you do venture out west, you are ready to go. But there is more to skiing locally. You have the camaraderie of friends with whom you have been skiing for a long, long time. They have the passion too and we all cannot wait for the season to start so we can get together on that first chairlift ride. Rob Alarcon and I were riding our mountain bikes the other night when he looked at me and said, ” I am getting nervous” ” I am getting so excited for skiing that I can’t stand it.” His way of dealing with it is to buy more and more equipment and when we talked clothing, he said,” I have so much clothing that I could insulate my house with it.” A funny line to be sure but graphically illustrating the passion of which I speak.

Skiing is like a lot of activities where friendships are formed that last a lifetime. You don’t have to be a skier to feel this passion and excitement. There are so many activities that foster this friendship, fun, passion, and love for whatever holds your community together. So, if life is marching on, take the time to remember what fueled your passion as a young person. Maybe some of that excitement needs to be rekindled? Memories of that first ride to the mountains and how much it mattered to you, can be restored with your family or friends. Life is too short not to have passions. I love life from the seat of a bicycle or sliding down a mountain on a pair of skis. The speed, the wind, the excitement of that first turn never gets old. Just do it!! Thanks for reading. img_0723

The Power of Positive Thinking

No matter which button you pushed this week, you probably could use an inspiring story to uplift your day. I would like to tell you about one of the most positive people I know. I would like to tell you about Daniel Chew. ridinguphill

I first met Danny way back when my group was first involved in the Allegheny Cycling Association Criterium Races at Highland Park Zoo. Danny was part of an elite group of riders that included Mac Martin, Danny’s brother Tom, and Matt Eaton. All of whom had national pedigree as road bicycling racers. These guys not only rode and raced together all over the country but they took the time to work with the weekend warriors like my group. Fun guys, but very talented and Danny was one of them. The interesting thing about Danny Chew is that he was always smiling, always engaging and when you first meet him, he asks you all about yourself. He does not dwell on his accomplishments at all but is more interested in what you do, where do you live, where do you ride, and ……do you know any athletic women who would be interested in dating a bike racer like him. He has an infectious laugh and his smiling presence was one of the rich memories I have of racing at the Zoo. 4721_rosensteel_151003

Daniel was a four time contestant in the Core States US Pro Cycling Race in Philadelphia and finished 12th in 1985 and 16th in 1987 as a freelance pro with no team support. He raced against the best in the world. In 1996 he was first place in the Race Across America finishing in 8 days, 7 hours and 14 minutes. Think about that for a minute. He won again in 1999 and competed a total of 8 RAAMs in his career. In 1983, he founded an iconic race here in Pittsburgh called the Dirty Dozen where racers take on 12 of the toughest hills in Pittsburgh and 12 of the toughest hills anywhere for that matter. He was one of the oldest winners  and competed as well as ran the race up until the present time.

3273_rosensteel_151003 Danny is a math whiz so his statistics on his web site about his races are legendary and he cheerfully challenged people to beat his record of climbing the stairs at the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning. Danny loves the bicycle. His mission of riding a million miles in his lifetime is still a dream and a reachable goal in spite of a recent setback in Ohio that changed his life.

While riding his bike he lost consciousness and crashed. The result was vertibae damage and spinal cord damage that has left him paralyzed from the chest down. He is currently in the rehabilitation program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on the campus of Northwestern University. His brother Tom researched the best rehabilitation facilities and found that RIC is viewed by many to be the finest in the country. Appropriate for one of the finest athletes in the country. I went to visit Danny last week and although he stated that this was a tough pill to swallow, his confidence in his recovery and his zeal for the road forward was truly inspiring. img_1140

Despite the life changing injury and the unknowns about his recovery, Danny has not lost that inquisitiveness about what you are doing and what is going on back home in Pittsburgh. Although he shared details of his rehab program, he was more interested in what was happening in the cycling community and how my wife and son were doing. The nurses were all doting over him because he is such an engaging individual. He is cheerful in spite of what has happened and is looking forward to his life back home when he returns sometime in December. He claims that he will continue his quest for the million miles on a hand cycle if that is his fate, but he has sought out  some military veterans and other enthusiastic hand cyclists to learn all about what lies ahead for him. He is excited to continue his life in spite of this debilitating injury.

Daniel was not only inspiring in his racing days, but in my mind, he is even more inspiring now with his positive attitude. I personally believe his life will be even larger as he continues to inspire others with his goals and his personality. I can see him on the speakers circuit someday to inspire others that no matter what happens to you in life, you can continue on if you have positive thinking and a positive attitude. Chuck Swindoll, the famous pastor always says,” I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” I pray for Danny and his recovery. I am sure that God has a good plan for him.

If you would like to contribute to his recovery, you can go on the web and sign on to http://www.youcaring.com There is a section where you can contribute. Also, if you are local to Pittsburgh, there is a fundraiser at the Southside Works 425 Cinema Drive which will show films of RAAM and give a chance for all of the cycling community to get together and rally around this cause for our friend. The date is Sunday the 20th of November at 4:30. Pray for Danny and his family and get involved in his recovery. He is inspirational for sure. Thanks for reading.

White Line Fever

“Turn signals are a sign of weakness”
– Jenni Beigh MacDonald

This famous quote by one of my esteemed colleagues tells it all for a seasoned big city driver. I tend to be conservative when it comes to the roadways in spite of the fact that I participate in some higher risk sports. However, behind the wheel of an automobile, I tend to be very careful. I am a right lane hugger in most cities. Even though I have driven in most of the major cities in this country many times, I tend to rely on the I-Phone directions and conservatively ride the right lane. img_1137

Let’s start with the east coast. Boston- forget about it. Definitely the country’s most aggressive drivers. Storrow Drive is like the Twilight Zone. Moving to the NYC Metro areas and New Jersey- my knuckles start to get white by gripping the steering wheel as I arrive in the vicinity of the Garden State. I tell my sister, who lives in New Jersey, that they are not good enough to drive that fast. No wonder there are 26 car pileups on 76 East. I leave three car spaces between me and the guy in front of me. But in NYC or NJ, those drivers wedge their way in front of me like I left the space for them? This leaves 2 inches of space between cars and if anyone hits the brakes, big pileup. img_1134 The L.I.E- fuggheddabaddit.

Atlanta- they drive like it is NASCAR. Weaving in and out like their hero Dale Earnhart and leaving me helpless in the slow lane. Plus you have the transplants- New Yorkers pretending to be from Atlanta. Chicago- way too much traffic and construction. You get worn out just driving around. Bumper to bumper and construction everywhere. Denver in the winter on I-70 is either a parking lot or a blinding snow storm right in front of the Eisenhower Tunnel. One time last year- it was a white out and as I sat there, the heater brought in fumes from the cars in front of me relative to the new laws in Colorado. Hey- traffic? Light one up for the team. img_1136

Then we move to LA. Tons of traffic and no regard for the speed limit whatsoever. 6 lanes of traffic on either side of the highway and a half hour to Laguna Beach becomes an hour and a half before 10:00 am after 3:00 PM. If you want to see something nice, you have to pay the price.San Francisco- I am terrified of the Bay Bridge and either I talk myself over the hump to Oakland, or I drive 19 miles to the south to take the more civil San Mateo Bridge. I find that the older I get the more acrophobic and claustrophobic I become as I try to keep it between the white lines on those amazingly high bridges and guide my way in the right lane of a tunnel praying for the other end to come and not to bounce off the walls. Ridiculous.

I do have some shortcomings as a driver. My wife and son claim that the more I talk,the slower I drive. It drives them crazy but I make my point when showing them sites of interest along the way. I engage in a conversation and the foot in perfect harmony backs away from the accelerator.

It is a good thing I have four wheel drive because I tend to drive even more conservatively in the winter. I will venture out of the comfort zone to pass a stuck driver on a hill or venture over the snow hump between lanes but again, tend to drive slowly in the right lane and let the crazies fly by me. I see them later stuck in the berms or sideways in the road, and I always point out the folly of their way to my family as they raise their eyes in ridicule.

My friend Norm from Chicago will not let me drive. He gets too frustrated but I hit the imaginary brake frantically when he drives as he looks at me over the top of his glasses, explaining something to me in a rain storm driving 90 MPH on the I-55. Scary!!!

So, you probably would not relish a road trip with me because it may take longer to get to the destination. However, I have a good safety record and you could probably sleep with me at the wheel and feel ok. Jenni, Norm, and others-I would sleep with one eye open. My opinion- drive safely and arrive alive. Thanks for reading.

It’s not always the bottom line.

” We recognize that our profits are directly tied to the quality of our work and our product.”
– Yvon Chouinard-
Founder and Owner
Patagonia Inc.

How many of us can say we have been a loyal customer to a brand for over 40 years? If you look at this picture, you will see an Instagram photo that I sent to Patagonia when they asked for pictures of folks who had vintage clothing produced by Patagonia back in the day. They liked this photo and put it on their Instagram feed one day. I was proud to say that I still have that original Patagonia pile pullover and wear it to this day. It is a testament to what Yvon Chouinard says above. screenshot_2016-07-03-21-05-59-5

I have a lot of Patagonia gear that I have purchased over the years and have recently purchased a new shell for this year. img_1125 However, in accordance with the Iron Clad Guarantee by the company, I have sent pieces of clothing back for repair and they have been returned to me free of charge and in excellent shape. You see, Patagonia doesn’t necessarily encourage us to throw away items that can be repaired because part of their mission statement is a strong respect for the environment. They would rather repair an item of clothing than sell a new one because the bottom line is not the be all and end all of the company ethos. Check out their “Worn Well” section on their website. http://www.patagonia.com

If you take the time to read Chouinard’s book ” Let my people go surfing. the education of a reluctant businessman” you will find a fascinating story of a guy who had a very meager upbringing in Quebec, a “dirtbag” lifestyle as a climber in Yosemite ( dirtbag being a proud moniker for climbers), and finally an extremely successful business man whose main goal is the quality of his work and the welfare of his workforce. yvon

The impressive thing to me about Chouinard is that he really means what he says. He is committed to the environment. The paper that they use for their catalogs is recycled. Their T-Shirts are made from organically grown cotton. The first Synchilla jackets were first made using fiber from recycled soda pop bottles. As a company they petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on decommissioning dams in the Pacific Northwest to once again allow salmon to spawn upstream. Finally, he and his wife Malinda have purchased huge acres of property in Patagonia in South America and have created a natural preserve there that is unique. In short, Yvon is totally committed.

Patagonia has a day care center for its employees that has been given numerous California state and national awards. Their ” Let my people go surfing” policy allows employees to take advantage of powder days for skiing,and time off to hit the break for surfing near their Ventura, California headquarters. Casual attire is always encouraged and employees can bring pets to work if they so choose. The understanding is that if the work gets done, why not take advantage of outdoor opportunities as they arise. img_1124 Culture is extremely important to Patagonia and its founder Chouinard who is lovingly referred to as COO. Chief Out of Office. Chouinard says,” This flexibility allows us to keep valuable employees who love their freedom and sports too much to settle for the constraints of a more regimented work environment.”

Many companies today have finance and profit as the “tail that wags the dog.” Patagonia has always been reluctant to cut costs, skimp on quality, or lay off employees all to meet the bottom line. From the founder on down, their philosophy of quality first has allowed them to be a wildly profitable company without profit being the main driver.

So, I have always liked the quality that Patagonia produces and that is why I have been a loyal customer for over 40 years. When I read Chouinard’s book, I became even more of a dedicated customer and proponent for the mission statement of Patagonia. Whether you are an outdoors type or not, this book has value in describing what is not a traditional business model. Pick it up and read about a fascinating blacksmith who created one of the most iconic brand names that we have in outdoor apparel today. Thanks for reading.

Photo of Pat at Tuckerman Ravine- courtesy of Eric Durfee.